Carbon tax removal could help some feel warm inside

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

O’Connor Township, Ont. — Some homeowners who live outside Thunder Bay and don’t have access to natural gas may not feel as pinched this winter when heating bills come due.

Thursday’s surprise announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove the carbon tax from home-heating oil applies to the whole country — not just Atlantic Canada where the Liberal government’s re-election prospects have been in the tank of late.

“I actually don’t know how many are still using oil, (but) there are some for sure,” O’Connor Township clerk-treasurer Lorna Buob said on Friday.

There is no natural gas access in O’Connor. Residents heat their homes with either oil, propane, electricity or wood, and sometimes a combination of fuels.

Trudeau, who has previously taken a hard line on carbon taxes, quickly came under fire for Thursday’s announcement: critics claimed he only made the move for political reasons.

Still, it’s clear that no matter where one lives in Canada, the cost of heating oil skyrocketed during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some customers in Thunder Bay rural areas have reportedly been paying $1.70 or more per litre of furnace oil.

On a 900-litre fuel fill, the federal carbon fee would add more than $100 to the bill, which is also subject to HST.

For people who still use oil-fired furnaces, “it’s been a really expensive time for them,” noted Sandi Grasley, an office manager for a Thunder Bay furnace installation company that services outlying communities like Kakabeka Falls.

Many seniors prefer oil for fuel because it burns hotter and the heat is often felt more quickly as it blows through air ducts

Propane furnace fuel remains subject to the carbon tax. A proposed amendment by a southwestern Ontario Conservative MP to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Price Act would eliminate the tax for farmers who use propane or natural gas for agricultural operations.

As of Friday, the amendment by MP Ben Lobb remained before a Senate committee and had yet to be approved.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski (Thunder Bay-Rainy River), whose riding includes rural Thunder Bay areas, noted this week that carbon tax rebates are to be increased for rural residents.

“As it is, 80 per cent of people get more in the quarterly rebate than they pay in carbon tax,” Powlowski said.

In an earlier interview, Powlowski said he doesn’t support removing taxes on carbon-based fuels.

The tax “gives an incentive to reduce carbon (use), rather than bringing in a bunch of regulations,” he said.

“It’s short-term pain for long-term gain.”